COVID Vaccine: Military And NHS 'Asked To Be Ready' For December Roll Out

The Armed Forces and NHS are on standby to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine from the start of December, the Health Secretary has said. 

Matt Hancock said they will be working "seven days a week", but admitted there are many hurdles to overcome before the "vast task" of vaccination could begin.

This includes regulatory approval of the new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and assessment of its safety data.

He said the NHS was leading work to get a vaccine to those most in need as soon as possible, though most people will not get a jab until 2021.

Asked whether a vaccine could be available by Christmas, Mr Hancock said that was "absolutely a possibility", adding that vaccination clinics would be open seven days a week.

Mr Hancock told Sky News: "I’ve asked the NHS who are supported by the armed services in this – but the NHS very much leading this effort for deploying the vaccine – I’ve asked them to be ready from the start of December.

"And, of course, there are many hurdles that still need to be gone over and we haven’t seen the full safety data and, obviously, that is critical, and we won’t deploy a vaccine unless we can be confident in its clinical safety.

"But we also do need to be ready should a vaccine be licensed and get through all those hurdles and ready to roll it out."

Mr Hancock said people in care homes, the elderly, and health and social care staff will be given priority for the jab.

He said once a vaccine becomes available, it will be delivered through care homes, GPs, and pharmacists, as well as "go-to" vaccination centres set up in venues such as sports halls.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Picture: PA).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the Armed Forces and NHS are on standby to roll out vaccine (Picture: PA).

The Health Secretary said the exact model would depend on which vaccine was adopted, with Oxford University and AstraZeneca expected to release the results of their vaccine shortly.

The Government has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for about a third of the UK population.

It expects 10 million of these doses to arrive in the UK before the end of the year, with people given two doses, 21 days apart.

Scientists have hailed the announcement from Pfizer and BioNTech as a significant breakthrough in the fight against coronavirus.

However, Mr Hancock echoed the comments made by the Prime Minister in a Downing Street briefing on Monday evening, urging people to not drop their guard and continue following the rules around social distancing. 

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hancock said he was "not going to put a date on" when life may return to normal, despite Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government’s vaccine task force, saying he was confident people could look forward to a return to normal life by the spring.

Mr Hancock first said in October that the military would be used in the roll out of a coronavirus vaccine

The Armed Forces have played a key role in the UK's response to COVID-19, setting up mobile testing units, delivering PPE and helping to build the NHS' Nightingale facilities

About 2,000 troops are currently in Liverpool, supporting a mass testing pilot in the city

Cover image: MOD.

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